Teacher retention: an appreciative approach

Nationally, the problem of teacher retention compounds the unstable nature of the educational situation, especially in urban, high-needs schools. Much of the instability of urban schools is due to teacher movement, the migration of teachers from school to another school within or between school districts, particularly from high-needs schools. Existing quantitative research about teacher movement cites working conditions generally as an area for improvement; however, the voices of teachers and details about their experiences are missing from the existing body of research. This qualitative study, situated in an approach of Appreciative Inquiry, was conducted in one small high school district that serves a mid-sized city in Southern California. This school district consisted of four high schools with the following variables: two comprehensive schools with higher percentages of students of color and lower socio-economic status; one comprehensive school with lower percentages of students of color and higher socio-economic status; and one continuation school with higher percentages of students of color and lower socio-economic status. Using similar representation from each high school, there are many individual variables concerning the fifteen participants: the variety ofrace and gender; the wide range in years of experience and the number of previous school sites of employment; and, the representation of many academic departments. Participants identified the working conditions and support most influential to them. The following are the findings based on their input, listed in order of significance: colleague support, professional development, district hiring practices, site administrator support, district office support, autonomy, teaching assignments, workplace culture, personal satisfaction, communication, respect, and teacher induction support. Implications regarding the employment ofworking conditions by school district personnel and school site administrators to increase teacher retention are discussed in chapter five. These implications include (a) the creation of a respectful workplace culture, (b) the utilization of communication with teachers, the provision of individualized and site-based support for novice teachers, (c) the distribution of an equitable schedule of classes to all teachers, (d) the implementation of information-rich hiring practices, (e) the emphasis of the focus on student learning, and (f) the presentation of constructive feedback about instructional practices to promote professional growth of teachers.